Piazza Del Dotto winery along Highway 29 against the Yountville Hills came to the Napa County Planning Commission with expansion plans but won't get an answer until at least June 7.
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The winery secured its original county approval in 2010 — when it was called Ca'Nani winery — and is a work in progress. Already existing is a Tuscan-style hospitality building, gardens, wine caves and a driveway with some 1.5 million bricks, along with eight acres of vineyards.
Vintner David Del Dotto is seeking further approvals and modifications. Among other things, he asked to:
- Build a 10,500-square-foot building with wine production and hospitality space.
- Raise annual wine production from 48,000 to 100,000 gallons.
- Increase annual maximum visitation for tastings and marketing events combined from 21,166 to 51,306 guests.
- Construct two cabanas in the garden area.
- Allow loudspeakers in the outdoor tasting area for background music.
- Double the approved cave square footage to 32,500 square feet, including a tasting room and commercial kitchen.
- Allow public use of the second-floor balcony in the hospitality building.
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The Del Dottos presently don't crush grapes at the winery, but ferment wine there in barrels. Fermentation falls under the county's definition of wine production and qualifies the site for tasting room visitation and marketing events, county staff said.
Del Dotto said the property before his family bought it looked like a dump, with 20 tons of garbage and old cars. They cleaned up the site, planted a vineyard and built a winery.
"We brought in close to 200 containers of Italian marble," he said. "All of the people who worked on the winery were from Italy. We've tried to put together a beautiful place."
Commissioners at Wednesday's meeting asked several questions about the proposed expansion. Some members of the public said they didn't have enough time to go through all of the submittal materials.
By continuing the matter, the commission intends to give Del Dotto and his neighbors time to try to work things out. Staff will also return with more information for the commission.
Del Dotto’s proposals had both support and opposition from the public.
Mary Ann and Michael Pozzan, who live nearby, had James Rose of the Buchalter law firm write a letter to the county. They objected to potential noise pollution from outdoor speakers, as well as possible light pollution and increased traffic.
“The adverse material impacts on their property cannot be mitigated,” Rose wrote. “The mere size and scope of these modifications are profound and unprecedented.”
Anne Kensok, manager of neighboring Yount Ridge Cellars, wrote the project will increase traffic. But she expected little impact in a lightly populated area.
“The site is very beautiful and the additional work that will be done will only enhance the property and be another jewel for the Napa Valley,” she wrote.
Neighbors Mary Ann and David Moffitt, Laura and John Peters, Laura May Everett, Christian and Cherise Moueix, Kara Taddei, Ren Harris and Elizabeth Moffitt wrote a letter expressing a number of concerns, from traffic to water.
Attorney William McKinnon of Water Audit California expressed concern, among other topics, about the proposed project's potential effects on a stream on the property that runs to the nearby Napa River.
Del Dotto gave the commission yet another perspective.
"It's hard to do business right now in Napa Valley ... It's always a changing marketplace. We've been fighting fires. We've been fighting the pandemic, of course. ... All of the restrictions that we have really makes it hard just to be business," he said.
Del Dotto added that he needs to drill more caves as a place to put wine barrels where they won't burn in wildfires. The winery's insurance bill last year rose from $250,000 to $750,000 annually, he said.
The family sells most of its wines directly to consumers. Expanding production would help the winery enter the wholesale market, according to Del Dotto.
"I would just plea with you to allow us to be competitive and do business," Del Dotto said to the Planning Commission.
Del Dotto said the family has made wine in Napa County for 35 years. The family also owns the Historic Del Dotto Winery & Caves on Atlas Peak Road near the Silverado Resort and Spa, as well as Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves near St. Helena.
You can reach Barry Eberling at 707-256-2253 or email@example.com